Two enter guilty pleas in parish

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 31, 2004

VIDALIA &045;&045; In Seventh Judicial District Court Tuesday, two trials ended in pleas by the defendants.

Larry Washington, 21, 510 S. Seventh St., Ferriday, pleaded guilty to forcible rape and armed robbery in connection with an event that occurred in 1997. Washington was sentenced to 20 years on each count with no parole.

In November 1997, Washington forced the clerk of a Ferriday store to lock the door, threatening her life with a pistol and tying her up and raping her, District Attorney Ronnie McMillin said.

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Washington was sentenced, but the conviction was overturned because of errors in sentencing.

Washington appealed the rape and armed robbery convictions separately.

When McMillin wanted to try the case again, the 3rd Circuit Court denied the appeal, saying time had lapsed for trying the case.

McMillin went all the way to the Louisiana Supreme Court to appeal that decision, arguing if one part of a case is being appealed, the rest of it was stayed or suspended because the rape and robbery were one conviction.

Last spring the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled in favor of McMillin and the case was tried Tuesday with a jury called, when Washington changed his plea from not guilty to guilty.

The original charge, the grand jury indictment, was aggravated rape but the plea was for forcible rape.

The difference, McMillin said, is a rape perpetrated by the offender, overwhelming the victim despite the victim’s efforts to resist.

Also, according the statue, it is a rape committed on a person when the offender is armed. Aggravated rape carries one penalty &045;&045; life in prison without parole.

Forcible rape, on the other hand, is a lesser charge, described in the statute as rape without consent from the victim where the victim was prevented from resisting by force. This charge carries a sentence of five to 40 years in prison.

So the plea was accepted on a lesser charge &045;&045; but a charge, forcible rape, the jury could have charged the defendant with even though the indictment was on aggravated rape.

&uot;I have a very traumatized victim,&uot; McMillin said. &uot;I wanted it over.&uot;

Also Tuesday, Donald Higginbothom, 30, 120 Grape St., Ridgecrest, pleaded guilty to contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile, committing a sexually immoral act for having sex with a minor.

Higginbothom was sentenced to serve two years with 13 months suspended and put on probation, given credit for the 11 months he has served.